My father’s 100th birthday will roll around in April. He is no longer living, but as his daughter I find one hundred years worth remembering. Dad was a romantic. He loved my mother passionately from their earliest courtship until her death. He never left her side during the fifteen years of her journey with cancer. He was a pleasant man. After he moved to the Veterans’ Home I once told him, “Dad, if you aren’t having a good day, if you have a day when you have pain, you don’t have to be pleasant. You are allowed a bad day now and again.” He looked a little puzzled and told me, “You might as well be pleasant. It makes life so much easier.” The CNAs enjoyed coming into his room because his “Please” and “Thank yous” were so genuine.
The son of a Swedish immigrant who left his country for lack of opportunities, Dad’s life was one that many people here in the West experienced. His parents gave each one of their children one year of college. Dad started out as a rural school teacher in Perkins County, South Dakota, and then after his time in the service in World War II, he used the G.I. Bill to finish his undergraduate education and move on to a Masters’ degree.
Where Dad sometimes had a little trouble being practical, Mom was pragmatic. She kept the family’s direction headed in a straight path where and when she was able. She was a rancher’s daughter and a rural school teacher as well. She and Dad met when he was teaching and she was County Superintendent of Schools. They decided to wait until after Dad returned from the service before getting married.
They built a solid life together. They were both frugal. Their one dream was to own a home and see to it their children got a college education. They achieved both. In Scripture, Jesus talks about a man who built his house on a solid foundation and it did not fall. My parents built this together. Dad always said his recurring nightmare was losing his job and not being able to support his family. He worked Saturdays some years and every summer from the time school let out until it resumed to see to it the bills were paid and there was food on the table. He was honest and hard-working. And he was patriotic and believed in citizenship and its rights and responsibilities. I will fly the flag on his birthday.
Every family has people like this. Sometimes we let them slip away as time goes by. It is important to lift up those who really made a difference in small, but profound ways. We are the result of their hopes and dreams. It is these people who have forged our nation and it is their legacy we preserve and protect in our hearts, in our families from generation to generation and this country.